Three weeks later…
The October air rolled in all to quickly and although she loved the vibrant colors of the fall leaves where ever she walked, Schuyler hated how the cold reminded her of her past on the dirty cot with a thin blanket to keep her barely warm. When the weather grew colder, Carey had taken her shopping for some more clothes and a thick quilt for when she wanted to snuggle up on the couch. Schuyler had to remind herself to pay back Carey for all her generosity these past two months or so she had been living here.
Crawling into the sofa with the quilt, Schuyler watched as Cohen carried wood from Carey’s pourch to the fire place in front of her. He had spent most of his time at the house the women shared since the day she shared her story and she didn’t mind it at all. Although her guard was still up about him, he seemed to have finagled his way around it just to be a friend. He asked questions about her life before being handed off to dirty men and seemed to want to help dig up who she really was outside of her horrific past. And sometimes, he brought food to the conversation.
“So what exactly do you write about?” asked Schuyler snacking on chocolate covered pretzels that he had came with.
“Nothing big. I can write about mostly anything but sometimes I’m given assignments to write about. I haven’t been given any serious ones lately.” He fixed the wood in the fire place and lit a smaller piece of wood and placed it underneath the wood pile and waited for it to catch.
“What do you enjoy writing about then?” She tossed a pretzel in the air and caught it with her mouth.
“I’m more of a creative writer. I like making up my own stories. letting my mind go there with endless characters and scenarios.”
“Got anything I can read?”
“I don’t like sharing my work that isn’t for the job.”
“Why not? You seem pretty confident in what you do. Maybe you should try writing a book.” she tossed up another pretzel, catching it with ease and even let out a victorious whisper. Cohen shook his head at her and chuckled.
“Confidence doesn’t pay the bills, my friend.” He poked at the wood and closed the chain fence before joining her on the couch. He thought back to his childhood where he made up endless stories to distract him from his own struggles; not many poeple had read them because he was too shy to share and he wasn’t yet going to let her in on the things he had created in the recent months that he had hidden away in his room.
A smell of beefy stew filled their noses as hymns filled their ears from Carey in the kitchen. They watched the fire glow with brilliancy and it filled the room with its warmth in just mere minutes. Schuyler pulled her knews close enough to her chest to make herself comfortable enough with feeling the paranoia of hurting the baby.
This child had her feeling sick to her stomach and more emotional than she ever thought she would be in her life. She often laughed at herself how easy it was to tear up at a cheesy commercial she’d catch in the living room when no one else was home. But most of all, she was hungry all the time. Whenever Carey worked, she learned to make simple meals with the ingridients left in the kitchen and when Carey was home, she would always bring something delicious from the bakery that didn’t make it to the trash at the end of the day. And sometimes, during his lunch breaks, Cohen called the house to see what she would be hungry for that day and bring it over and have lunch with her before heading back to the office.
Cohen could see Schuyler from the corner of his eye. He smiled in a way that she wouldn’t be able to spot if she turned to face him. For a week or so, he tried to push down the attraction he was having towards her. There was a new sense of awe for the woman who took a risk on running from dangerous men, a type of strenght and fight that made him want to be around her all the time. Slowly but surely, he watched her come out of her shell. There were times when all three of them would be out and about together and he could see her pay careful attention to her surroundings. If he had a gun, he’d carry it on himself all the time just to make her feel safe. But he didn’t want to chance it if she was not yet used to that kind of thing, so he always stayed close beside her just instead and kept an eye out as well.
He could see her wrapping thick ebony curls around her chocolate index finger and then letting it unwind and spring back up. He could feel his cheeks burning underneath his scruffy beard, thankfuly it was too dim in the room for her to even notice. He had learned to embrace the way his body reacted to her being around. And to his surprise, she never crossed his mind in a sexual way like all the other woman he encountered. He even chilled out with the random women in his bed and mostly went straight home from work instead of the Nashville city bar he used to occupy.
“Supper is ready!” Carey sang from the dining room. Like teenagers, Schuyler and Cohen moved from the couch quickly, shoving each other out of the way to get to the table first.
“Calm down you two, there is plenty for everyone,” Carey said as she placed a basket of homemade biscuits on the table and began pouring lemonade from a glass pitcher.
“But I’m eating for two, so I’m extra hungry,” Schuyler said grabbing for the ladel that was placed in the the serving bowl for the stew. Carey playfully smacked her hand away from it and gestured for them to say grace before digging in. Schuyler gave a sheepish look as she grabbed Carey’s hand, then Cohen’s. He hesistated before taking it but did reluctantly. Carey spoke the blessing and they all ladeled thick beef stew in there deep bowls and grabbed big southern biscuits. Schuyler enjoyed Carey’s cooking more than anything in the world. All the flavors seemed to sink into her soul and rest her weary heart from all her heavy thinking. Every bite tasted like home and the silence from Cohen seemed to give her the indication that he felt the same way as his eyes opened and shut slowly as he chewed. Carey watched them with amusement as they spooned the savory goodness.
“Glad yall are enjoying it,” she chuckled while spreading butter on her biscuit. The rest of the meal was filled in comfortable silence until Schuyler offered to do the dishes. She collected bowls and glasses from the table and walked them to the sink and began filling it with hot sudsy water. Cohen, walked in shortly after with the left over stew and empty basket and started putting the food up before he joined her at the sink. In rythmic fashion, Schuyler scrubbed at the dirty dishes, rinsed them and handed them to Cohen to towel dry before placing them back on the shelves. Ever so often, their hands and arms brushed up against each other and Cohen tried his best not to be moved by it. If he leaned closer, he would get a faint whiff of her floral body wash which turned his stomach his stomach into butterfly clouds.
Carey’s entrance broke Cohen away from his attention off Schuyler, “Would you two mind grabbing the ice cream and toppings? I have to take care of something upstairs.” Schuyler and Cohen nodded and watched her exit as quickly as she entered.
In her room, Carey quietly closed the door behind her and grabbed the manilla envelope that came in the mail earlier that day. She sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, heart racing as she opened it slowly and pulled out the white sheets of paper that held information she had been waiting on.
Her eyes read through each sentence carefully before being filled with tears. Her emotions ran deep as her now glassy blue eyes scanned the birth certificate, foster and adoption information and lists of accomplishments all the way from elementary school to college. Her heart filled with pride and sadness as she realized she missed every achievement of the son she believed she had lost forever.
When she was finished, she glanced at her face in the mirror and began wiping away any evidence of her tears before meeting Schuyler and Cohen down stairs.
At some point, she knew the truth would need to be revealed but for now, she would have to believe God would have a designated time for such a moment. Until then she would enjoy the blessings that were Schuyler and Cohen and pray.